March Madness Preview


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Connor Easterday

It’s time for one of the most anticipated sporting events of the calendar year, the NCAA Tournament. After the college season was cut short just weeks before the tournament was set to occur last year, fans are chomping at the bit for some good old fashioned March Madness. This year will be unlike any other, with every game being played in Indiana, the NCAA is taking extreme measures to ensure that we get through March without a single new case of Covid-19. I’ll be breaking down each region, giving insight on what teams are the cream of the crop, and who might just make a cinderella run.


West Region

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The West region consists of the number one overall ranked team in the nation, the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The Zags have gone a perfect 26-0 up to this point and don’t look like they’re slowing down anytime soon. With 25 double-digit wins under their belt, one of the best NBA prospects in the country in point guard Jalen Suggs, a first team All-American in three-point sniper Corey Kispert, and behemoth down low in Drew Timme, Gonzaga has made their money by playing high tempo basketball and out-talent-ing every opponent. 

So who, if anybody, can take them down? Well, the answer is probably nobody. However, there are some formidable opponents, such as the Iowa Hawkeyes. Led by the soon-to-be College Basketball Player of the Year, Luka Garza, Iowa knows how to play against top dogs. They beat Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Purdue in a rout. They also have experience playing against both one-seeded Illinois, and the Bulldogs themselves. If the Hawkeyes are going to have a chance to make a final four run, it’ll be due to experience and an ungodly amount of points scored by Luka Garza.

Now, even if Gonzaga may sweep their way through the West, who will be a possible cinderella candidate to look out for? In my mind, it’s the 12-seeded Ohio Bobcats. To find any sleeper team, you must look for matchups. Often, the first round games that are most vulnerable to upsets, are the 5-12 games. This is because 12-seeds tend to be the best mid-major programs in the country, who are only ranked lower because of weak competition. Meanwhile, 5-seeds are often the weakest among the high-major programs. That precisely describes the matchup between Ohio and Virginia. The Cavaliers have had a down year this season, with lesser talent all around. The defense isn’t as menacing as it once was, and their isn’t truly one go-to offensive scorer. Ohio, on the other hand, has a do-it-all superstar in Jason Preston. The junior point guard ranks among the best players in the nation, and can go off for 30 points on any given night. He almost single-handedly willed his team to a victory against Illinois. This is the ideal “cinderella team” out of the West region.


South Region

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The South region may not be deep on talent, however the teams at the top are competing for a national title. Those being, one-seeded Baylor and two-seeded Ohio State. The Baylor Beats started this season 18-0, and were seen on the same level as Gonzaga. However, after a Covid-related tailspin, they took a midseason dip, and ended up stumbling at the finish line in a loss to Oklahoma State. However, at the end of the day, Baylor remains one of the only teams in the country who can go toe-to-toe with Gonzaga. Another team who may be able to is Ohio State. The Buckeyes have had a phenomenal season that almost came out of nowhere. Junior forward, Duane Washington Jr. has broken out into a superstar overnight, meanwhile the supporting cast, consisting of defensive-stopper Justice Sueing and sniper Justin Ahgren, is incredible. The team can put up a fight against anybody, and it was on display when they took Illinois to overtime in the Big Ten championship.

An interesting matchup here in the South region may be Villanova versus Winthrop. It’s another infamous 5-12 game, in which one powerhouse program, Villanova, is stumbling, and one mid-major program, Winthrop, is speeding up. Literally. Winthrop is one of the fastest teams in the nation, out-pacing all of their competition. Playing a three-guard lineup, the Eagles love to score in transition and run up the numbers. Villanova, meanwhile, is missing their starting point guard, and second leading scorer, Collin Gillespie. This is the worst nightmare scenario for Jay Wright and his Wildcats.


East Region

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The East region may be the most interesting. There isn’t any one team that pops out over the rest, which could result in some good ol’ madness. While Michigan is the number one seed, they’ll be missing one of their best players in Isaiah Livers, for the entire tournament. And while number two seed Alabama has had a phenomenal year, there isn’t one reliable scorer in the end of games. A team that could emerge as the clear favorites is Texas. The Shaka Smart coached team is finally playing high-caliber basketball again, after years of disappointment. Loaded with upper-classmen guards in Matt Coleman, Andrew Jones, and Courtney Ramey, and one of the most talented frontcourts in the nation with Jericho Sims, Kai Jones, and Greg Brown, Texas may be the deepest team in this region. Another threat out the East are the Florida Seminoles. Coached by veteran Leonard Hamilton, FSU once again has a team with elite athleticism, length, and defense. Freshman Scottie Barnes could very well be the x-factor for this team. Coming off the bench, but closing games, Barnes is a 6’9 forward who is often tasked with being the lead initiator. He’s played well in his first year, but if Florida State wants to make a run to the final four, they’ll need him to step up and cement himself into stardom.

The ultimate sleeper coming out of this region is Georgetown. After an uninspiring, non-tournament-worthy regular season, Patrick Ewing’s Hoyas pulled off a historic route through the Big East tournament. Taking off top challengers, Villanova and Creighton, Georgetown has shown that when they’re rolling, they are to be feared. Faced with an up-and-down Colorado team in round one, they could have a legitimate shot to make a potential run in this tournament.


North Region

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There are two teams in particular who stand out in this region. The one-seeded Illinois Fighting Illini and the four-seeded Oklahoma State Cowboys. Both teams, led by first team All-American guards in Ayo Dosunmu and Cade Cunningham respectively, are offensive powerhouses who have NBA-caliber talent throughout. Cunningham will be the number one pick in the NBA draft in just a few months, while Dosunmu is arguably the best player in college basketball right now. If these teams win their first two matchups, as they should, a potential Sweet Sixteen game between OSU and Illinois has the potential to be the best game of the tournament. And the winner could very well be on their way to the title game.

There aren’t any standout cinderella-types in the North region. However, one sleeper team to watch out for is Loyola Chicago. Making a famous final four run just a few years ago, the Ramblers are back and better than ever. If offensive dynamo, Cameron Krutwig, can turn on the jets and stuff the statsheet with a few triple doubles, there’s a chance that this team gives it all it’s got in round two against Illinois, and potentially pulls off the upset.

Overall, this tournament seems to be cherry on top of a “Gonzaga vs. everybody” season. However, when one team is this dominant, all it does is raise the stakes. And when people are on the edge of their seats, tension is at an all time high, and the games really matter, we know that March Madness rarely fails to disappoint. Get ready, because it’s all just beginning.